Semi-quick story: My husband likes coarse sea salt. I don’t get it, but whatever. I don’t dump salt on finished food anyway.
For Christmas I was making brined turkey that called for 1 cup of kosher salt. Now, I quickly checked Google (what did people do before Google!? I mean, I made it through high school referencing newspapers, books, and magazines using an old card catalog…but now?
Well….it turns out my first search was incorrect. I substituted 1/2 C. regular salt (where I should have substituted MORE salt, not less). The ratio ended up being vastly incorrect…but luckily, the turkey still tasted good. However, I was lucky. This was simply brine, not salt going directly into a small batch of soup or something.
I suspect the hidden cause of many a failed recipe is bad ingredients. Not bad as in spoiled or expired. Bad as in low-quality or the wrong ingredient. I have to admit that when I started cooking- with my sense of thrift- I had a tendency to go for cheaper ingredients. I’ve stopped that practice. And everything tastes better.
High-quality and the correct ingredients are the difference between a delicious recipe and a…well, disaster. Or at least a low-quality product. Understanding the differences between ingredients is important too. Did you know 1 Tbsp. regular salt does NOT equal 1 Tbsp. sea salt or fine sea salt? So today, we shall cover salts!
***Note1: updated on 4/23/15 with a tiny bit of extra info. Thanks (again) to reddit. Original info was correct; I just added some.
Fleur de Sel: more expensive salt. Raked from coastal sea ponds in France. Delicate flavor with traces of sea mineral taste. Delicate, irregular crystals; pinch and then sprinkle over food (aka: use as finishing salt). However, if you can (or want to) afford it, it can be used for all cooking.
Kosher salt: Coarse texture; becoming more popular among cooks as dissolves fast and disperses flavor well in dishes. However, with its lesser volume, more needs to be used. Note that kosher salt does not necessarily meet Jewish Kosher requirements; its name comes from its use in making meat kosher by helping to remove the surface blood.
Rock salt: large, chunky crystals, (obviously) mined. Used for making ice cream (and de-icing roads!).
Sea salt (crystalline): Can come as fine or coarse texture, so check the label when buying. As it is (obviously) drawn from sea water, there are natural impurities that will affect the taste. Depending upon type (location “mined”), there will be different tastes. Great for adding flavors to food.
Sea salt (flaked): soft, sheer, pyramid-like flakes. Fastest dissolving of all salts; use as a finishing salt.
Sel Gris (gray salt; Celtic salt): naturally coarser, raked from bottom of the salt-pan. Sold both as crystals and a fine-ground. Used both for cooking and finishing.
Smoked salt: made by smoking it over a wood-fire. Distinct taste. (Personal fact: my husband LOVES using it on steaks before grilling.)
Speciality salts: there are hundreds of varieties; it would be impossible to list them all. A few examples: Thai ginger infused,
Pink Himalayan, Red Alaea Hawaiian salt, etc. Some people find a taste difference with speciality salts; most do not. Most of these are just “finishing salts” meant to add color to a dish at the end and not impart any flavors.
Iodized vs. Non-iodized: all salts can be iodized (have iodide added). The average, non-labeled as one of the above salts is made of rock salt; has fine, dry granules; is inexpensive; and has a fairly boring taste. In addition, anti-caking agents are often added, giving it a slight metallic aftertaste on occasion. Generally what people think of when they speak of “salt.”
There is a Morton conversion chart for interchanging different types of salts at: http://www.mortonsalt.com/for-your-home/culinary-salts/salt-conversion-chart.